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Working out Volo

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User offline. Last seen 12 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
When you're a moonlighter, day jobs suck

I have grave news. Today I was told to go home with pay, written warning in hand, to think about it all weekend long and come back on Monday to talk about signing it and getting back to work, if I choose to do that. The warning was on poor performance -- tardiness, negatively discussing workload with other departments, a day of bad judgment where I stopped a production daemon, and I told my manager "no" on a task. Sure, all these things were exactly correct. Sure, I let myself down. But the problem was from being wore out with this job and not being able to move on.

(But first, you have to understand that I'm 40 years old, have done practically every job possible in the IT industry, and my title says "Senior" in it for a reason. I've solved countless fires at the office in record time. Meanwhile, the guys I work with, and my managers, are complete dopes who get all their tricks and experience from me. They stumbled backwards into their jobs, while I worked my way through the ranks for several years. I've tried to help them, but all I get back is a stab in the back.)

On the tardiness, my day job is one hour there and one hour back, and the pay is kind of so-so. I'm doing sysop work instead of web development (which is my gift) because they outsourced my web development work to Brazil for a few years (by the way, I like the Brazilians, anyway) and then when the web work came back to the States, it wasn't my language of choice -- PHP. So, yeah, I got sick and tired of going and wanted to do something more. I used to make twice what I make now and had a great life before 9/11. But those days are long gone. Now I've moved into a small town where there's no opportunities except one single place that's an hour away, and to leave would uproot my wife and children, who are well established and very happy here. My wife is at the pinnacle of her career. To make matters worse, we had some damage on my house that I don't have the cash to repair right now ($20K) and so we're living with it. If I move away, I'd have to sell the house and suffer a tremendous loss. We should never have built this house the way we did.

Also, the other issue with the tardiness was that even when I came late, I would be asked to stay late, night after night. Complaints didn't help. And the new manager doesn't believe in comp time like the last manager. So it's a messed-up work situation.

On negative workload talk with other departments, it's just that the other departments ask for stuff, wonder why I'm a complete idiot and don't have it done, and all I can say is that I'm mired down in the last tasks I was given. My management asks me some impossible stuff, like take a product I've never heard of before, connect it to a database and programming language I've never used, and get it all working in pretty charts in one week.

On shutting down the daemon, it was a bad day. I was trying to meet another rush deadline and it required I copy a script to several servers. I couldn't login on one server except as root at the console. I wondered what the issue was and then recalled that one of the database servers had a special condition in that LDAP Client could not be used. I thought that was it, that it wouldn't be missed if it was stopped because this server never used it, anyway, and I stopped it in a rushed moment without getting authorization and running this through change management. Well, that brought 1/8th of the main production system down, woops, and I started it back up again when I was alerted to the problem 3 hours later. Yeah, it was very bad that I did this, and in five years with the firm I have never screwed up like that, but I made a mistake in doing this on the wrong server and it all comes down to be overworked. Again -- I'm overworked.

On the task where I said "no", it's because she asked me to call a vendor about a product when I knew 100% that they would only point back to what I already knew. I knew how to fix the problem, knew it wasn't the vendor issue, and just needed to have the time to get it fixed. Time was my enemy. The problem dealt with alerts in a monitoring product, and they were daisy-chaining a false alarm down the list of servers even though the systems were up. The problem was that the product interfaced with NetSNMP and NetSNMP was told to run batch jobs that took a long time to run. They took so long that they were timing out. When they timed out, the monitoring product couldn't get stats on all the Windows servers. And why did I use this NetSNMP system in the middle on Linux? Well, because it was doing complex math for me on the stats it pulled from several Windows servers. I then sent those new values to the monitoring product. So that's why I said no, and she considered it "egregious insubordination".

So guys, when you're a moonlighter, day jobs suck. So now I've got a suck startup and a suck job. I'm about to lose it all unless I get my act together. I'm going to have to do my 10-12 hour days as if they're like 8 or 9. I'm going to have to direct other department requests to my manager instead of helping people right away. I'm going to never do any task with "delete", "remove", "re-initialize", "reformat", or "stop" in them on a production server without formally running it through change management. I knew that, but I need to stay alert even when I'm tired. And, last, the correct answer, every time, is yes. Yes I'm going to involve a tech support vendor even when I know the answer -- just because my manager says so. Yes I'll work late even though I was up at 6:15am.

Sure, the company needs to be told off, but that wouldn't get me anywhere. It would fall on deaf ears. In fact, they would write it down and keep it on file for the next time a potential employer decides to call them after I'm terminated.

It's Christmas, my wife's out of town on a special seminar, and I can't bear to tell her the news about the written warning. I'm hoping they let me back into the office come Monday, that I meet their obligations and don't break more rules as I walk on eggshells in the Hell Hole, and that I can ride this out just another couple months so that I can find another job somewhere else. I guess I hope it's PHP on Linux, or just Linux sysop work at best, but now I don't even know. Perhaps my life would be so much better if I worked regular hours doing some rope-a-dope job for $25-$28K a year, but then I wouldn't be able to afford my kids, my wife, my two vehicles, my credit card bill, and my house payment.

P.S. Now that I'm off for the weekend, stuff is breaking at the office and I'm getting alerts on it. I know what's wrong and it could turn into a major crisis unless rectified soon, and I emailed my manager, but they're not dealing with it. Okay, it's their deal now. It could mean that they lose two major clients and a whole lot of cash (several hundred thousand a year) because of this, but it's their issue now to deal with it.

User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
It seems that without all

It seems that without all your hard work, the company would get into serious trouble. Maybe there is a way to make them notice that, but I don't know what that way would be. Making management approve every single decision you make could work in theory, but I guess it's more likely they will force you to do stupid things and then put the blame on you... Time for a new job, and remember to use your free/open software to show off how good you are to potential employers.

I agree with democrates SaaS versions of your software could bring in money, but on the other hand I think that will open a huge can of worms when companies start depending on it and something goes wrong.

Good luck!

User offline. Last seen 12 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
Blogged the day jobs

I've been a tester, a programmer, a web developer, a business analyst, an IT manager of programmers, an IT manager of sysops, and a sysop. I've got "Senior" in my name, which usually is a bad thing because it often means arrogant, cranky, and hard to be around (even though I'm not). So, I've decided to blog on this thread deviation. Just wanted to let you know about it....

I'm trying to work out this catharsis. It's tough. I worry about Monday and what to say to my wife when she returns. I worry about how much longer my current manager will keep me.

User offline. Last seen 7 years 27 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
Wow, that's some wake-up

Wow, that's some wake-up call. I had to take a chill pill and reflect for several hours before posting.

Are your bosses aware of volosystems? If so maybe they keep an eye on your activities online. It seems co-incidental that the day after your post on working out volo they send you home with an ultimatum.

So you need the money and hope to be in a job come Monday, I salute that you're willing to do whatever it takes for your family, you don't place an exorbitant price on your ego, despite the fact that entrepreneurs are notoriously unemployable due to being so driven and filled with self belief.

What I did in that situation was to disconnect emotionally in the day job. It didn't always work, I guess I became quite cynical and broody towards the end. I still wonder if I made the best choice by not playing happy camper and going for promotions when I could have because I was so focussed on going out on my own. I would have learned more and made more money and contacts.

What sticks out most is "egregious insubordination" and maybe the rest is padding. Forget about democracy or meritocracy, it's a traditional company - a communistic central command hierarchy and you are a unit of labour. By daring to challenge the command structure you've committed a big crime in they eyes of the bosses, and you were one yourself so you can imagine the reaction in their shoes. As you've seen with this weekends problems they'll let customers, the business, and the bottom line suffer before they'll tolerate dis-obedience, and they're letting you know it.

Maybe they just want you to sign it and go back to your post, but if you are asked to "clear the air and get the positive working relationships thing going again" - I've been through that defiance/punishment experience myself, I'd say you've got to apologise unreservedly for refusing an order and give a commitment that it won't happen again, fight the machine on this one and you're out of there.

On tardiness, no doubt they see it as another case of flouting the rules and ultimately will insist you turn up on time. Nevertheless explain your perspective that you've consistently put in the extra hours without pay, and had assumed it would be a two-way street and that some family-friendly flexibility would be allowed in light of all the extra hours you've dedicated.

I'd be careful about saying "overworked", and don't say exhausted. If I'm guessing right that will come straight back at you as an accusation that you're spending so much time on volo that you're too tired for your day job. They could take the view that what they need is to replace you with an obedient twenty-something single with no external commitments. Again all the extra hours tell the story.

On the procedural issues, my approach to getting them across would also be non-confrontational, to say that looking back maybe you had become somewhat disillusioned, because you felt that x, y, and z, BUT, you recognise that although it's not the way you would do it, it's how the company wants it done so in the future you'll follow standard procedures. In fact, as an ex boss you now see that you need to develop internal procedures further so that people in other departments will have better information about what's going on and your bosses will have better control over priorities.

This is of course ludicrous, but by helping them to expand their enforcement of what is in effect a work to rule, you get to cover your ass with documentation on all the work you do. I'd keep a good task management record in any event, in case this ends up in court.

Of course all that yes sir no sir three bags full sir goes against the grain, particularly for entrepreneurs. But as you say you don't want the last thing on your file to be a bad thing when you're going for another job.

As for the moonlighting, it's not a total loss, you've learned a lot and are ready to re-focus on a new model. Take the long view. People overestimate what they can achieve in a year but underestimate what they can achieve in ten. Don't sacrifice your family life too much. Time management works there too in making sure you have quality time with all your kids and just you and your wife - crucial for the marriage.

Could it be that what you need is business partners who are programmers and sysops, like an IT co-operative? Maybe at this stage and age your most effective role is to take what you know about the business and let others get on with development and maintenance, allowing you to more easily choose a suitable work/life balance.

User offline. Last seen 12 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
Decided to resign on Monday

I've had a lot of discussions with a career mentor friend and a relative and I've decided that the best thing to do is resign at my day job. Tbuitenh, you also hit it exactly on the head. My days were numbered, anyway, and walking on eggshells will just be impossible for my personality type. I mean, I have boo coo IT experience in so many areas that I should have no reason to feel punished for speaking out and saying that I'm fatigued beyond reasonable expectation and under-performing to outrageous goals.

My direct manager thinks she can live without me, but the manager above her knows how valuable I am. He will have a cow and may try to reverse my resignation now that I've called her bluff. The manager of Development may also have a cow and try to swing it so that I join his department.

Part of my problem is that I'm such an outsider. I mean, everyone there thinks they can solve problems by clicking on buttons in windows. When Linux arrived, they brought me in. But I'm a Yankee and they are all Dixie. I make more than double what my coworkers earn and have at least four times the experience and knowledge. I used to earn 4 times as much as my coworkers when I had my previous job and it was before 9/11. I've traveled all over the country as a consultant and they've barely left their hometown. I'm 40 and they're 24. These guys have been conspiring against me since the day I was put in place as their supervisor (until I asked for a lateral move into Senior Systems Engineer because supervision sucks). The funny thing is that they will probably think that, if I'm forced out, all that money will rain down on them as a promotion. But I can tell you that's not the case -- they'll have to pay good cash for at least 2-3 people to replace what I was doing.

Guys, a new day may come for me. I have no idea what the future holds. I wish I could focus on F/OSS work in a profitable startup, focusing on PHP and Linux, or even this cool new server-side Javascript that I've been playing with. I could also have a career purely focusing on PostgreSQL/EnterpriseDB work, Apache, performance management (load balancing, performance, and fault tolerance) or just purely doing Linux tasks. If you know a venture capitalist looking for talent for startups, or know a startup manager, please point them at me if you could. I tried to apply to Ubuntu, but what I hear is that they first take all their community contributors who slave the hardest, and then consider resumes from them. When you're Canonical, you can pick the best of the best. I mean, a billionaire is paying your salary and they have a stellar product that makes Microsoft shiver, and yet which is outside of Microsoft's legal reach. Plus, everyone who works there has this cult-like following. Even Google top brass and key senior employees are fans. It's no wonder so many people want to work for them. In my opinion, Canonical is even a more luring company for F/OSS individuals than Google.

User offline. Last seen 12 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
They don't know about Volo.

They don't know about Volo. I've been extremely careful about that. And, come Monday, it will be a moot issue for them. I'm resigning on Monday. However, they'll either try to fight to back-pedal and keep me on in some other department, or they'll let me go and then have a massive eureka a couple weeks later that I should contract to them to bail their butts out of a crisis, or they'll let me work 30 days (odds are, no), or they'll just grant me 30 days through a 2 week vacation and 2 weeks on them for free. We'll have to see.

User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Whoa, that (the ubuntuforums

Whoa, that (the ubuntuforums posts) is some career advice. I already had suspicions dilbert is a softened version of reality, and the best way to survive is to be a BOFH - thanks for the confirmation.

Thank god I have some education in graphics design - no impressive diplomas, though. My impression is that experience and a good network / portfolio are more important, and I can work on those if I can manage my time such that I get periods in which I'm both awake and not stressed...

Back to topic.

User offline. Last seen 7 years 27 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
The very best of luck

The very best of luck whatever way you go supermike.

You could also get on to the nearest chamber of commerce to see how you can best get networking, be it breakfasts or what not. Seven degrees of seperation, someone will know someone who wants your talents but couldn't get them locally until now.

User offline. Last seen 12 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
It's over

I've resigned from the day job. You see, I had an unblemished 6 year record with the company. Not a single written warning on file. My performance numbers were high. But then to take a written warning and probation meant, to quote the HR lady, "If you even look cross-eyed at your manager, you're terminated immediately" -- I would be on eggshells, not really knowing my end date. Then, I'd have an involuntary termination on my record for another employer to hear that, and I'd have no time to find another job. They told me while I was on probation that they would even record keystrokes, watch my screen live, watch me on camera -- all kinds of things. And why? Because my position was "keeper of the golden keys" -- I had all the passwords to everything since I was the senior sysop. At least with the resignation, my record remains unblemished, I don't have to walk on eggshells and ridiculous demands, and I get 30 days + 2 weeks of vacation.

My wife is on her way back from her seminar trip to Harvard Law School and I had to tell the news. She was quite shocked at first, but now considers this a blessing. Over the years I've had several short-term contracts come to me by email for PHP work and I haven't been able to jump at them. Perhaps now I can make that happen. So, she says she's motivated for me to make a go of Volo in many more ways than just sitting down, waiting on downloaders to decided they want to pay for something. She wants me working with anyone I can on commission. If they bring in leads and sell what Volo can offer, then I build it, collect the payment, and pay out the commission. As for what rate, I won't lock anything down until I get a chance to discuss the deal and other factors. Since I'm the absolute worst salesman on the planet, the commission will be very favorable because salespeople do miracles.

Both my father and sister in law are working from home. The father-in-law does rental of trailer homes and built himself up from nothing, starting with foreclosures. Now he says he has a lot of free time and the income is steady, but not as high as he wants. He wants something more. I also have a talkative, amazing little sister-in-law, Rebecca, who convinced a politician in town to give her a regular paycheck to run errands for him and be his campaign manager. He's a business owner. However, he doesn't use her all the time and she has a lot of free time. They both want to help me, but especially George, my father-in-law. George said, "Let's start a business together." I said, "I already have the LLC." So we're going to talk again today.

I hope this could be a blessing in disguise. Pray for me. If you don't believe in God, then consider crossing your fingers.

Anyway, let me tell you about the departure. Two morons I worked with are in their twenties and they thought they were hot stuff even though I taught them everything they know. They're going to get the blunt end of all this work and it's going to be painful. I used to share a 3-person on-call duty with them, carrying a pager and a cellphone. Now it's just going to be those two dopes. Then, my supervisor and her supervisor will be left holding the bag. All of them think the stuff I ran and did in a day were easy, but they were not, and the fit will hit the shan starting tomorrow when Fedex Corp signs on and starts sending transactions their way. Little do they know that our database servers have CPUs running at 98% right now. Woops! So, anyway, my supervisor was so angry because I think she was thinking I wouldn't call her bluff and would just take the warning and move on -- she refused to talk to me on the exit. Instead, my former supervisor (now her supervisor) was the one who was most appreciative and very nice on my exit. He said he wanted to help me exit with dignity because I deserved it. However, the funny thing is that he has like no clue what he has done here, and oh will he find out soon! Now here's where it gets even more interesting. My resignation letter was crafted such that I thanked a bunch of people, laid out all my major accomplishments, and talked about being overworked to the point where the only way to fix the problem was to leave. Now, when the systems start failing either tomorrow or in the coming weeks, the supervisor three levels up will have a cow and ask to see my resignation letter. When he sees it, I may very well end up with a phonecall to come back, or at least to be a contractor. Being a contractor back to this firm is exactly what I'd love to do. Sure, screw me over for years, now you have a problem you can't handle, pay me $120 an hour. Muwahahaha.

User offline. Last seen 7 years 27 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
You can't keep a good man

You can't keep a good man down, end of list. Great to see your whole family not just talking supportive but offering practical involvement in making it work, you guys sound like the Waltons. The atmosphere of a family business is such a stark contrast with so many soulless corporates.

Your "fit-shan" prediction sounds right on the money. Within a year of my leaving the section got outsourced. I've no doubt I got blamed for writing unmaintanable, undocumented, and barely commented code in producing a bunch of systems, and no-one bothered to recall that these were the exact warnings I made and they overruled every time in favour of "just do it!". Mad Hatter IT, you've got to partake in a train-wreck in slow motion, and smile. Sure don't miss that or what came to be known as "the cupboard of broken dreams". This was a press where suggestions on how to improve and expand the business were filed and forgotten, it was an empty gesture ostensibly demonstrating a participative management style, but turned into a "raise hopes, dash hopes" iteration that demoralised all the bright sparks. Those clowns obviously crammed Drucker in getting their MBA's but learned nothing.

That female boss may be making the classic mistake of many women who see themselves as having to adopt certain tactics "to make it in a man's world" - instead of bringing the best female qualities to the workplace she adopts the worst male qualities.

That was a wise resig letter too, you haven't burned your bridges with those who can make the decision to bring you back on contract.
This has been an interesting story, hope you'll keep us posted as events unfold. As for not being a good salesman:

"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself."
Peter F. Drucker

The product will get you in the door, good service will keep you there. The number one reason customers ditch suppliers is because they feel they were treated poorly, things like being fobbed off, given empty promises, or rude/insulting behaviour. It's that more often than price.

PS I don't have to pray for you manually, I have a perl script off cron that regularly churns them out to all deities just to be covered, I'll add your name to the blessed_souls table :-)

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